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November 16th, 2016

Amazon Gets an “F” For Not Having Chemical Policy

Amazon Gets an "F" For Not Having Chemical Policy Groovy Green Livin

It’s been a rough few days for many of us while we try to process the results of last week’s election. Thank you to all who reached out to share your feelings and concerns. It’s times like this that reinforce why this amazing community is so valuable.

Amidst all the turmoil in the world right now, it’s comforting to know that there are many organizations out there continuing to do important work.

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is one of those organizations that continues to chip away at our broken system. I’ve been working closely with them since the launch of their Mind the Store Campaign in 2013. Together we’ve been reaching out to the nation’s top 10 retailers to ask them to stop carrying the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer, infertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

New report released gives Amazon and other retailers failing grades for not having a chemical policy in place

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families released a new report today, Who’s Minding the Store? — A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals,” showing that some of the nation’s biggest retailers have cracked down on toxic chemicals in their products while others are dragging their feet.

Amazon Gets an "F" For Not Having Chemical Policy Groovy Green Livin

Major U.S. retailers earned grades ranging from B for good progress to F for failing to develop and make public even basic safer chemical policies.  The average grade was a D+, which is not something to be proud of. These stores have some work to do to meet rising consumer demand for safer products.

The top three retailers were Walmart, Target, and CVS Health. Each has made meaningful progress toward safer chemicals and products. Meanwhile, other large retailers remain serious laggards. Amazon, Costco, and Albertsons all earned failing grades.  

Amazon?! Costco?! These are stores that many of us use on a regular basis. As Amazon continues to grow and expand it’s surprising that they don’t seem to care about the health of their customers. 

Big retailers cracking down on toxic chemicals BUT too many lag behind. #MindTheStore Click To Tweet

Retailers were graded on a scale of 0 to 130 points and then given a letter grade.

Here’s a list of the retailers with their letter and number grades, ranked from the highest to the lowest graded companies:

  1. Walmart Stores (Walmart and Sam’s Club):  B (78.5 points)
  2. Target: B (76.5)
  3. CVS Health: C (53)
  4. Best Buy: C- (41)
  5. The Home Depot: D+ (35.5)
  6. Lowe’s: D (29.5)
  7. Walgreens: D (29.5)
  8. Kroger: D- (15.5)
  9. Albertsons: F (12.5)
  10. Costco: F (9.5)
  11. Amazon: F (7.5)

Target continues to rock! Over the past year they’ve made significant improvements made to their chemical policy.  The company: 1) Added cosmetics to their policy; 2) Expanded its list of chemicals to include chemicals banned in cosmetics in the European Union and Canada; 3) Significantly improved its evaluation of suppliers’ transparency practices; and 4) Added new criteria pushing suppliers to publicly disclose their fragrance palette, allergens in fragrance, and nanomaterials.

CVS also rocks! The report card also reveals for the first time that CVS Health has become the first pharmacy chain in the country to become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project.  Additionally, CVS Health has pledged to publicly disclose its restricted list of chemicals in 2017.  Best Buy also disclosed it is developing a safer chemicals policy, restricted substance list, and manufacturing restricted substance list, to drive harmful chemicals out of electronics.

This holiday season take the time to educate yourself before you shop. Give a little love to those retailers who are working towards safer products on the shelves in their stores.

Will you join me and tell big retailers that it’s time to eliminate toxic chemicals?


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October 21st, 2015

Victory! Macy’s Vows to Sell Furniture Free of Toxic Flame Retardants

Victory! Macy's Vows to Sell Furniture Free of Toxic Flame Retardants Groovy Green Livin

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to Macy’s. I wanted to let them know that I was concerned about toxic chemicals that may be in products I bring into my home.  I shared with them that I’m especially concerned about toxic flame retardants, which are common in upholstered furniture.

It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, yet much of the furniture in our stores continues to be filled with these toxic chemicals. They are known to migrate out of couches and other furniture, get into the dust inside our homes and make their way into our bodies.

For years, most couches and upholstered furniture across the U.S. contained high levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Recent changes to the California flammability standard now provide better fire safety without the use of these toxic chemicals.

Leading retailers are already selling furniture without toxic flame retardants.  Ashley Furniture, Walmart, Ikea, Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, the Futon Shop, La-Z-Boy, Williams Sonoma (Pottery Barn, West Elm), Ikea, Ethan Allen, and Restoration Hardware have either eliminated or committed to eliminate toxic flame retardants in all of their furniture.

I joined many others as part of the Mind the Store Campaign. Together we asked Macy’s, one of the biggest retailers of furniture in the country, to adopt a public policy and time-frame for eliminating toxic flame retardant chemicals in all furniture foam, textiles and backing, and clearly label all products nationwide in accordance with the new California labeling law.

Over the past two weeks, Macy’s received thousands of e-mails from customers encouraging them to address the harmful chemicals.

And guess what?! Macy’s listened!

Victory! Macy's Vows to Sell Furniture Free of Toxic Flame Retardants Groovy Green Livin

Victory! After much consumer pressure, Macy’s has agreed to ensure the furniture they sell is free of toxic flame retardants.

Macy’s let me know in an e-mail that they’re finally taking action on flame retardants in furniture. They said:

“We will be instructing any remaining suppliers who are using these chemicals to cease doing so.”

Thank you Macy’s for doing what’s right for our health.

Thank you to Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and the Mind the Store Campaign for their hard work on this issue and thank you to the thousands of people who took time to write to Macy’s to voice their concerns.

Change is happening. As buyers continue to demand flame retardant-free furniture, manufacturers have no other option but to listen. Together we made this happen!

If you have some time over the next few days please give Macy’s a shout out on social media.

Just click here if you’re on Twitter:

[Tweet “Thank you @Macys for getting toxic #flameretardants out of furniture #MindTheStore http://ow.ly/TGnxL via @groovygreenlivi”]

Where do you buy your furniture? Are you concerned about toxic flame retardants? 


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photo credit: Macy’s 6/2014 Waterbury, CT. Pics by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube. #Macys #MacysStore via photopin (license)

June 4th, 2015

Are There Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Child’s Car Seat?

Hazardous Chemicals Found in Popular Child Car Seats Groovy Green Livin

Many young children spend hours in a car every week strapped into a car seat. When my kids were infants they basically lived in their car seat. I would drag them from activity to activity strapped in. The car seat snapped directly into the stroller during those first few years of life. If they fell asleep in the car I would bring the entire car seat into the house and let them continue their nap in the seat.

In a new study released today by the nonprofit Ecology Center  (at the consumer-friendly site, www.HealthyStuff.org) the findings show that some of our favorite car seats are filled with toxic chemicals.

Looking back, I wonder how many hours my kids spent in those car seats on a daily basis? And to think I was strapping them into their car seat to protect them, not to expose them to toxic chemicals.

CHILDREN’S CAR SEAT STUDY

The Ecology Center tested 15 infant, convertible and booster car seats and found that while most seats still contain dangerous chemicals, some companies have taken big steps towards reducing chemical hazards.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and over half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well. The study finds the hazardous flame retardant chemicals and alternatives used by companies are poorly regulated, putting consumers at risk, and questions the fire safety benefit of using these chemicals. Top rated companies in the study, Britax and Clek, have been aggressively implementing policies to reduce hazards in their products while still meeting all safety standards.  The poorest performing company was Graco.

The study is the fifth in series of studies identifying poorly regulated chemical hazards in car seats since 2006. HealthyStuff.org has tested 377 car seats in the last 9 years.  Added flame retardant chemicals are not bound to the car seat materials and thus are released over time. Infants, toddlers and children can be exposed through inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) absorption of these chemicals.

According to Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, this is one more example of how the lack of regulation in cars has resulted in car interiors having some of the highest levels of hazardous chemicals, including flame retardants.

Here’s what The Car Seat Study found:

Graco’s Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat in Matrix, according to Ecology Center’s research, is one of the most toxic car seats.

Best 2014-15 Car Seats:

  • Britax Frontier and Marathon (Convertible)
  • Clek Foonf (Convertible)

Worst 2014-15 Car Seats:

  • Graco, My Size 65 (Convertible)
  • Baby Trend, Hybrid 3-in-1 (Convertible)

Other brands with products tested include: Chicco, Cybex, Dorel Juvenile Group (Eddie Bauer, Safety First), Evenflo, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, Peg Perego. To see if your car seat is on the list take a look HERE.

Here’s what you can do

  • Find a safer car seat. Check in with the retailer directly and ask about their use of toxic flame retardants.
  • Use your dollars and your voice to let car seat manufactures know that toxic flame retardants in car seats are unnecessary and unacceptable.
  • Occasionally vacuum the car seat and your car. According to Consumer Reports, this will help limit the amount of dust, which is where chemicals released from the seat or vehicle’s interior may settle.

Is your child’s car seat on the list? How can we get car seat manufacturers to remove toxic flame retardants from their products?

 


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March 6th, 2015

Mom Detective: My Hunt for a Flame Retardant Free Couch

Mom Detective: My Hunt for a Flame Retardant Free Couch Groovy Green Livin

This piece was originally published over at Moms Clean Air Force

Change is happening. As buyers continue to demand flame retardant-free furniture, manufacturers have no other option but to listen.

It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, yet much of the furniture in the market place continues to be filled with these toxic chemicals.

There’s some good news to report.

Office Furniture and Toxic Flame Retardants

A group of companies that cumulatively spend over $520 million annually on office furniture have pledged to purchase furniture that contains no chemical flame retardants. By taking this pledge they are joining forces to demand their office furniture suppliers offer safer products without flame retardant chemicals.

This is a big shift in the right direction. With these companies taking the lead, they’re sending a strong message to all furniture companies that it’s time to end the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

According to the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) a small group of office furniture companies have already committed to selling flame retardant-free furniture.

CEH also released the names of the corporations and government entities that have signed the CEH Purchaser’s Pledge. The companies on this list have taken a pledge to purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals. Their commitment to purchase chemical-free furniture kicks off a national trend towards safer products made without flame retardants.

Some of the companies committing to purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals include: HDR Architecture (North America’s 2nd largest design firm, with 8,500 employees working in 200 locations worldwide), Facebook, Staples, Autodesk, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Residential Furniture and Toxic Flame Retardants

Back in 2013, a study of 102 couch samples (including one from Moms Clean Air Force’s Public Health Policy and Outreach Manager, Molly Rauch), were gathered from around the country and tested for the presence of flame retardant chemicals. An alarming 41% of the samples were found to contain chlorinated Tris, a carcinogenic flame retardant which was banned for use in baby pajamas in the 1970s.

Thankfully, there’s good news coming out of California. Beginning on January 1, 2015, companies that sell furniture in the state of California (manufacturers are applying this to products sold nationwide) are required to include a label that discloses if upholstered furniture products contain flame retardants. Check for the label underneath or on the back side of furniture.

These new safety regulations also allow upholstered furniture to be made without flame retardants. It’s important to note that these regulations don’t ban added flame retardants from furniture. Unfortunately, only products manufactured after January 1, 2015 will require the label, and mattresses are not required to be labeled. But again, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Chicago Tribune reported reported:

“…that major furniture retailers including Crate and Barrel, Room & Board, and Williams-Sonoma (Pottery Barn, West Elm) all say they have mostly eliminated the chemicals from their products. IKEA, La-Z-Boy, The Futon Shop, Scandinavian Designs and Wal-Mart also said they have told vendors to stop adding flame retardants to furniture.”

The nation’s largest furniture company, Wisconsin-based Ashley Furniture, reported to the Chicago Tribune it is committed to making products that don’t contain flame retardants.

This is big news. According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Ashley Furniture is not only the biggest furniture retailer in the US, they’re also the biggest manufacturer, and one of the biggest in the world with nearly $4 billion in sales. We now need Ashley Furniture to take the next step by announcing a clear public time frame for phasing out these chemicals in furniture foam and fabrics.

How to find flame retardant-free furniture

With the new safety regulations in place my search for chemical-free furniture just became a bit easier. While manufacturers aren’t required to remove flame retardants from their furniture, these new requirements are a few steps closer to transparency when it comes to our furniture purchases.

Let your dollars do the talking and seek out furniture retailers and manufacturers that commit to carrying furniture without toxic flame retardants.

  • Check if the company is on the CEH list and has removed all flame retardant chemicals from their furniture.
  • Ask retailers and manufacturers if the product/model you are considering is flame retardant-free.
  • Verify that the furniture you’re planning to purchase was manufactured after January 1, 2015.
  • Let retailers who continue to use toxic flame retardants know that you won’t be purchasing their products.
  • When purchasing furniture, use the NRDC guide and verify with the store that the product is flame retardant-free.
  • Look for the new label from companies that sell furniture in the state of California which discloses if upholstered furniture products contain flame retardants.

Are you in the market for a new couch? Will you ask if there are flame retardants before buying?

 


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photo credit: Red couch via photopin (license)

December 18th, 2014

Hey Kroger: It’s Time to Take the Toxins Out

Kroger Take the Toxins Out Groovy Green Livin

Have you heard of Kroger? We don’t have Kroger in the Boston area, but I know it’s the primary grocery store in many of your cities and towns.

Kroger  is the largest grocery chain in the United States and one of the largest worldwide. They have over 3,500 stores and sales of over $98 billion.

I’ve been working with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and many others on a campaign called Mind the Store for almost a year. Remember when I went into Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from products they sell? I’ve also traveled to Washington DC– twice– to fight for safer products.

That same day that I headed into Walgreens I joined forces with many others. As part of the Mind the Store campaign we asked the nation’s top 10 retailers (including Walgreens and Kroger) to avoid carrying what are being calling the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer, infertilitylearning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Other big retailers like Walmart and Target have developed plans to screen out over 1,000 chemicals in products on their store shelves.

But not Kroger. Kroger has continued to be largely unresponsive to the campaign. It’s time to turn up some heat this holiday season.

Kroger still doesn’t have a comprehensive policy to screen out and eliminate toxic chemicals in their products. They have the power and a fundamental moral responsibility to ensure products on their store shelves, especially food, are safe and free of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

We have a BIG problem in our country. Toxins are basically unregulated and can make their way onto the shelves of our stores without our knowledge. That’s why we’ve been asking retailers to take the lead and create their own policies to insure safer products on the shelves of their stores.

If Target and Walmart can do it, so can Kroger! There’s a bit of good news: Kroger has taken some initial steps to eliminate certain chemicals like BPA in canned food. That’s a promising first step.

It’s time to tell Kroger they need to ensure packaged foods and other products they sell are safe, especially for children and pregnant women.

As many of us are getting ready for our big holiday meals for Christmas,Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, dangerous chemicals may be lurking in our favorite dishes.

Studies have shown toxic chemicals like phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects in baby boys and asthma in children, can migrate out of food packaging and get into the food we eat.

It’s not just toxic chemicals in food packaging.  Many consumer products contain chemicals that have been linked with chronic diseases and health conditions, including cancer, reduced fertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes, chemicals that are getting into our bodies.

A recent study found children’s Halloween trick-or-treat bags laced with dangerous flame retardants sold at Kroger.  Kroger has reported selling over 150 products with hazardous chemicals harmful to children to the state of Washington under an innovative state law.  For example they reported selling tableware with formaldehyde, parabens in skin care products, and phthalates in children’s clothing.

Hope you’ll join me in telling Kroger it’s time to be a leader-it’s time to take the toxins out!


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photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart via photopin cc

November 11th, 2014

Salon Workers are Exposed to Nasty Toxic Chemicals

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

Salons can be a pretty hazardous place to work given that many harmful chemicals can be found in salon products. I’m always reminded of this every time I walk into a salon for a haircut. The overwhelming smell from the products literally stops me in my tracks. Imagine the predominantly female workforce in hair and nail salons who are exposed to these chemicals for many hours at a time on a daily basis.

Women’s Voices of the Earth has once again done some amazing work. They’ve just released a new report showing how these nasty chemicals in salon products harm the health of women working in salons.

This new report, Beauty and its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers,  is the the first ever to document how toxic chemicals lurking in hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and other salon products are harming the health of women who work in salons.

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

The report finds that salon workers are at an increased risk of cancer, miscarriages, neurological disorders, immune disorders, asthma, dermatitis and more.

The creation of safer products, better laws, and the use of best practices in salons can significantly reduce the health problems experienced by women working in salons.

Congress can pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act to ensure salon products are fully labeled and safe for salon worker health.

What the Report Shows

  • Harmful and irritating chemicals such as acetone, toluene, ammonia, and methyl methacrylate are commonly found in salon air.
  • Cancer-causing formaldehyde can be released from hair straighteners and flat iron sprays when used with high heat.
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists may be more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, especially when their work involves using hairspray and permanent waves.
  • Studies have found increased risks of several types of cancer in hairdressers.
  • Nail salon workers have greater risk of immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Salon Workers Head to D.C. with Report in Hand

With the report as ammunition, Women’s Voices for the Earth is bringing salon workers to Washington DC this week to lobby Congress to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act. They’ll be telling their stories to lawmakers, federal agencies like the FDA, and the media about how their health has been harmed by toxic chemicals.

Everyone has the right to a safe workplace. But as long as companies continue to use harmful chemicals like cancer-causing formaldehyde (found in hair straighteners), styrene (found in hair extension and wig glue), and p-phenylenediamine (found in hair dyes) salon worker’s health will continue to be threatened.

What’s the Solution for Salon Workers?

Women working in salons shouldn’t have choose between their health and their livelihoods. We can support these courageous women by asking our own Congressional representatives to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act HERE.

While we’re waiting for our government to act, salon workers and owners can take the following immediate actions:

  • Wear gloves
  • Use less toxic products
  • Improve salon ventilation systems
  • Don’t offer toxic salon services such as a Brazilian Blowout

Take a look at my picks for safe shampoos, nail polish and body lotion.

Salon workers deserve better. Don’t you agree?

 


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photo credit: spo0nman via photopin cc

November 10th, 2014

Why You Should Never Put Plastic in the Dishwasher

Groovy Green Livin plastic in dishwasher

Have you ever accidentally opened your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle? It’s like an instant facial. The steam and heat emitted are enough to make you jump back and close the door quickly.

The water is hot so your dishes are cleaned with minimal elbow grease. Did you know the water must be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the best cleaning and to prevent damage to the dishes? That’s hot water!

What do you put in your dishwasher?

We have a relatively new dishwasher and for some reason it seems smaller than our older version. I still do my best to jam as many dishes into the dishwasher as I possibly can for a single load. Everything from plates to glasses to flatware goes right in without much of a rinse.

Over the years I’ve really weaned myself off of plastic in the kitchen. I’ve tried hard to reduce the amount of plastic touching our food in any way. For the few plastic items still remaining, they get washed by hand.

My rule: never put anything plastic in the dishwasher. And here’s why….

Heat and plastic are a bad mix

Repeated wear and tear on plastic, including running plastic through the dishwasher, could cause BPA, Phthalates and other chemicals to leach out of the plastic when heated.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics. Heating the plastic (stressing it) may cause more leaching of the chemicals. 

Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used as softeners or plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC, vinyl) products and can be found in hundreds of products: pre-2009 toys, wallpaper, cling wrap, shower curtains, plastic PVC containers, nail polish, perfume, blood bags, cosmetics, personal care products, shampoos, carpeting, wood finishes and insecticides (the list could go on and on).

Phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts and some preliminary studies show that they may be causing a slow and steady demasculinizing of men. Other studies have linked phthalates to liver cancer and breast cancer.

Unfortunately manufacturers aren’t required to list phthalates on products. Look out for “PVC,” “V” or the”3″ recycling code on the bottom of anything plastic.

BPA

As many of us know by now BPA is bad news. It’s a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

And if that wasn’t enough there’s more:  “BPA-free” doesn’t mean it’s safe“. As new alternatives to BPA are popping up all over the place we have little information about their impact on our health.

The Bottom line

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.

Plastics are more likely to leach toxic chemicals when they’re heated or exposed to light.

I think I would rather hand wash plastics than risk those nasty chemicals leaching into my food.  How about you?

Are you ready to hand wash those plastic dishes?

 


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photo credit: Skakerman via photopin cc

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Alper-46

About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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